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Dutch pension funds choosing mergers over insurers – FD

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Dutch pension funds that are winding up are increasingly turning to mergers with other pension funds rather than placing their pension plans with an insurer.

Citing figures from regulator De Nederlandsche Bank, financial news daily Financieele Dagblad reported that 70% of liquidating schemes opted for another pension fund during the first six months this year, while no more than 50% did in 2011.

As a consequence of the historically low interest rates, insurers are unable to offer attractive benefits at the retirement date, it said.

Although the association of Dutch insurers (VvV) acknowledged pension funds’ decreasing interest in contracting insurers, its spokesman noted that many employers had opted for directly insured arrangements.

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According to Tim Burggraaf of pensions adviser Mercer, the low interest rates make it expensive to transfer pensions to an insurer, which must offer a guaranteed pension. 

“As the margin is very small, taking over pension plans has become less profitable, and many insurers have stopped offering pension arrangements altogether,” he said.

His view was echoed by John Smolenaers at pensions adviser Towers Watson, who said insurers could not continue to offer their high rates during the height of the financial crisis.

“Back then, pension funds with a considerable shortfall could join an insurer without any rights cuts,” he said. “Fees are higher now.”

However, a spokeswoman at Aegon said the insurer did not recognise a lack of appetite among pension funds.

“We don’t have any problems offering attractive conditions to pension funds,” said Hilde Laffeber.

“Following the ongoing consolidation in the sector, we even notice an increase of schemes placing their arrangements with us.”

Currently, Aegon is pensions provider for 40 pension funds with 900,000 participants in total.

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